Belarus bans oldest newspaper over alleged extremism

Belarus’s oldest newspaper, Nasha Niva, has been banned after the government accused the publication of extremism, the Associated Press reported.

On the 115th anniversary of its founding on Tuesday, Nasha Niva was outlawed by the country's central district court upon a request from the Ministry of Information, according to the AP. 

According to the ruling, those who publish or repost Nasha Niva content will face prison sentences of up to seven years. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The newspaper covered the anti-government protests that erupted last year after President Alexander Lukashenko won his sixth term in the August 2020 election. The opposition denounced Lukashenko’s victory as rigged.

Belarusian authorities responded to the ensuing protests with a nationwide crackdown, which led to more than 35,000 citizens being arrested and thousands more beaten by police, the AP reported.

Andrei Bastunets, head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, compared the country's current situation to that of some of the world's most censored nations

“The authorities are continuing to destroy Belarus’ independent media, calling everyone extremist,”  Bastunets said, via the AP. “The situation in Belarus is worse than in Cuba or Iran and is getting close to North Korean standards.”

Authorities blocked the online newspaper in July and arrested its chief editor, Yahor Martsinovich, and journalist Andrey Skurko.

Twenty-nine Belarusian journalists, including Martsinovich and Skurko, are in custody as they serve prison sentences or await trial, the AP noted.